While sitting around the dining room table the other night, my kids reminded me of a funny memory… ‘Mom, remember those crazy lemurs we saw at the zoo in Kansas?’
‘Oh great grief, yes!!’ I replied with a smile and immediately my thoughts trailed to a blur of reminiscing…
My three kids and I had traveled to Kansas several years ago to spend time with one of my best friends and her family for a few days. While we were visiting we all loaded up and headed to a fabulous petting zoo near Wichita.
We fed large stalks of celery to mama giraffes and their babies, hung out in exotic outdoor bird cages, observed rhinos with rambunctious attitudes, and knelt down beside cuddly kangaroos to stroke their tummies and backs.
When we finally arrived at the gate of the lemur exhibit we listened with anticipation as the zoo keeper dished-out strict instructions before she allowed us to enter. Visitors were warned to not pet the lemurs while in their living quarters or they would see this as a competitive game; instead we were to sit in a designated area with our hands placed on our legs. The lemurs would take interest and eventually climb onto our laps but whatever their behavior, we must NOT pet them! If we raised our hands to touch them, they’d view it as an invitation for play-time…aggressive play-time…which involves, but isn’t limited to, slapping the human species on the face…
The kids smiled and giggled as these fluffy animals, with monkey-like characteristics, bounced around them like Richard Simmons. In my (unprofessional) opinion, it was the most entertaining part of the zoo for all of us!
The thought of getting slapped on the cheek by a lemur may sound funny. Out of reaction, I’d want to defend myself from the savage rascals, probably even fight back.
…Here’s the object lesson, which I need as much as anyone else: most of us probably aren’t hanging out in a cage with frisky lemurs on a daily basis, nevertheless we’re still at risk of a slap to the cheek by someone’s harsh words, negative attitude, or ignorant behavior; and when feelings get hurt and emotions flair, then we begin to behave on impulse much-like a bunch of slap-happy lemurs, right?…fighting our way to claim the victory of what was most likely a petty disagreement to begin with anyway.
When we turn the pages of scripture to Luke 6:29 we see what Jesus has to say about a slap on the cheek, ‘If someone slaps you on one cheek, offer the other cheek also.’ There’s no real deep theology to Jesus’ words here. His expectations are pretty cut and dry. Jesus simply wants us to avoid revenge. When someone wrongs us, we often want to fight back—fist raised, teeth showing, Mike Tyson style…But Jesus says no, don’t go into defense mode, instead turn the other cheek.
He surely wasn’t offering us this advice just in dealing with the lemur family— however the concept is very similar to my visit at the zoo. The zoo keeper had forwarned us to remain calm toward any aggression from the cute, but deceitful, furry animals. I feel like Jesus’ message resembles the same instruction in dealing with one another’s differences.
Jesus goes on to say, “If someone demands your coat, offer your shirt also. Give to anyone who ask; and when things are taken from you, don’t try to get them back. Do to others as you would like them to do to you. If you love only those who love you, why should you get credit for that? Even sinners love those who love them! And if you do good only to those who do good to you, why should you get credit? Even sinners do that much! And if you lend money only to those who can repay you, why should you get credit? Even sinners will lend to other sinners for a full return. Love your enemies! Do good to them. Lend to them without expecting to be repaid. Then your reward from heaven will be very great, and you will truly be acting as children of the Most High, for He is kind to those who are unthankful and wicked. You must be compassionate, just as your Father is compassionate.” (Verses 29b-36)
I don’t know where you fit into those verses, but I look at that and realize I could definitely use a lot of work in the areas of living graciously and compassionately, with or without lemurs provoking me!!
These verses require generous action—driven by love-motivated faith.
Serving and loving others starts with prayer and seeking opportunities to step out in generosity, and then more prayer. It becomes a mission of awareness and sacrifice…a desirable pattern, with prayer as the fuel, and there shouldn’t be an end.
Steps for loving and serving others:
- Pray for patience and guidance
- Seek opportunities/places to love and serve others
- More prayer as you follow God’s will
- Take action: step-out in generosity and faith
- Praise and more prayer for new ideas
If it stops, it’s because we’ve lost our focus and converted from Jesus-focused to self-focused. But we don’t have to remain, we just jump back in, beginning with prayer and cycling through until it becomes a healthy second nature to love and serve others, never taking the idea for granted.
And when we feel like we’re lacking self-control (in dealing with difficult people) we can always mentally hang out in the lemur habitat—quietly, hands on laps—while the ornery critters climb all around and on us like a jungle gym, meanwhile our patience will have a chance to grow and endure…our humble approach is where love gracefully and abundantly leaps it’s way into hearts.